I’m excited to report that the loosely categorized “Carapace Project” is back in production. Both Nick and Mike are hard at work writing their respective arteries and I have, once again, returned to mine. Stay tuned for updates and previews as they will be imperative to our continued motivation.
People of Calaan, your voices shall be heard…
Starting April 2nd, you can find me every Monday over at The Heavy Duty where I’ll be staving back the crippling, inevitable affects of fallangical atrophy.
The NFL was in late February form this past week when off-the-field stories dominated headlines, marginalizing sports that were actually underway. The greatest Colt to ever play the game was traded to the Broncos, the deconstruction of the Saints proceeded, and the Jesus Christ of quarterback controversies was sent to New York. Two of these stories are linked, for me, in a very real way (not the two that you think). One of these stories doesn’t belong in this group because it’s the only genuine story.
Peyton Manning to the Broncos was the headline, the product of a full term gestation. It was all anyone’s been waiting for since the end of the regular season, perhaps earlier if you were focusing closely on the wall on which everything was written. The story heralds the sunset of an era and the dusk of a career; a stillborn fetus birthed of an attention starved “mother-ship“. Yet, with so many dicks to suck, the Manning story was dismissed within a day for much more salacious affair. The upstanding underdog Tim Tebow was on the move as a result of Manning’s arrival – thus immediately providing another (more polarizing) pursuit – and the Saints were knee capped by a delusional commissioner’s ban hammer. These two stories are linked by more than just my ire. They automate forward by way of the same petrol, the fuel of the new NFL demographic.
Bounties have been present in the NFL longer than you think. Sorry, when I say “you” I mean the casual fans who only started watching each Super Bowl after Janet Jackson’s nip slip. When I say “you” I mean the soccer moms who like the event of it all and the commercials between bouts of hyper-tension, induced by the fear of the kids hearing an f-bomb picked up by the referee’s mic. When I say “you”, I mean the NFL’s new target demo. ”You” can make a lot of money for the NFL and Roger Goodell knows it. This is why the subtle strategy of the running game has been executed from the sport in favor of the flashier passing game. This is why Breast Cancer Awareness is advertised with pink uniforms, as opposed to AIDS or cancer awareness. This is why the Saints will be punished for a practice as old as the game. Understand this: the sport, the business profits on violence. The conclusion of each play, game, and season is manufactured aggression. Peddling pain and doing all you can to instill as much of it as you can is what Defense is all about. So if your issue with “bounties” is the motivation behind them: pick a different sport to watch.
If you believe that the problem with bounties is that the likelihood of injuries is higher, consider this: football players, even at a professional level, are not ninjas. The field is not strewn with restrained assassins, just waiting for the kill command. Bounties are the smallest incentive (for a player already at the highest competitive level) to play harder, faster, and more aggressive. It’s not a license to kill, freeing the player to unleash a skill-set involving the intricate ways in which to break an arm. Ten thousand dollars to take out Brett Favre is the equivalent of a steak dinner and night on the town for most of us. They’re a “silly side bet” (thanks Matt) and, really, should be expected in a game where injury is just as prevalent as pass plays.
“You” are responsible for Tebow-mania, too. Tim Tebow is everything the NFL thinks you want: a polite demeanor, pretty face, and family friendly values. He’s a G-Rated star with no threat of animal abuse or cock shots on Twitter. Who cares if he can play the game, we’re celebrating parity now! He’s an underdog in a sport where anyone can win! Tebow is the embodiment of Goodell’s agenda: a safe, polite NFL. Major sports media outlets love Tebow too. For they know he can’t play his way off a pulpit but understand that it doesn’t matter. Sports are more entertainment than competition now and, just as the NFL is targeting TMZ tuners, so is EZPN.
Tebow to New York will result in even more coverage, for reasons valid or not. Every day from now until the end of the season will feature a “Tebow in New York” story in the rotation. What will be, what is, and most of all: what could be will be dissected by Sports Emmy nominated “talent” until the likely outcome is disappointing in comparison to the months worth of hype shoveled over its casket. The hypothetical in sports journalism is fetish akin to auto-erotic asphyxiation: sensationalism grows with severity until essence is severed and a husk remains, dick in hand. No tangible facts are in discussion, just wild speculation, which is evidently enough to entertain. Tebow is not a better quarterback than Mark Sanchez, which isn’t saying much but says everything. His hiring is a PR stunt that will result in a 6-10 record during which Rex Ryan juggled Sanchez and Tebow out of games at the manic whims of the Jet faithful. The team will be a god damned bloodbath, showering the entire sport.
Ratings will never be higher.
It is with that acknowledgment that I consider the betterment of the sport, not the coverage or fan fare surrounding it, and offer these bounties:
Bring me the still dripping bones of “Tim-sanity” and the uneducated fandom that breathes life into Tebow-mania with every ignorant breath. Stop praising him as a “winner”. The Denver defense kept that team in close situations. Without them, no miracles would’ve been possible. Is he a great football player? Sure, compared to me and my dad, yeah he’s great. There’s a lot of real estate between Thanksgiving Day backyard All Star and an NFL player. Allow Tim to build his house there, it’s still nicer than our neighborhood.
Let there be an end to the appeasement of parent-friendly sport. This is not Pop Warner, these are grown men making handsome salaries to throw themselves against on-coming trains. That’s always going to be dangerous. Stop pretending that it’s not. Goodell, stop pretending the sport is out of control and regulating it on behalf of the phantom offended. If anything, the NFL was neutered years ago and those who’ve been paying attention to the decline see right through your bullshit.
Let me stare into the deadened eyes of a hyperbolic and vapid media corpse. This, this most of all is what I desire. Sports are magnificent enough. No sensationalism is required. You can’t fabricate excitement, legends, or impactful moments. Your lives would be so much easier if you simply stopped trying so hard.
For these gifts, these crucial killings, I am willing to offer my undying gratitude…and a box of Cheez-Its.
And so it was sealed, as the 51 yard hail mary limply fell onto the turf, that a team with a 9-7 regular season record would win Super Bowl XLVI. The New York Giants, who lost twice to a languid Washington Redskins team and at home to the seizure-ly Seahawks, defeated the franchise that most resembled a dynasty since the Cowboys of the ’90s. An innovative offense utilizing two tight ends (in a way that will certainly be copied next year) by one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks lost to an indiscernible mash of 70/30 ground chuck. Mistakes certainly hurt the Patriots moreso than the Giants. Opening the game with a safety and ending it with a confused array of dropped passes nearly reserves an early flight out of Indy all by themselves. The Giants though put the ball on the ground three times too and were simply able to reacquire possession before Vince Wilfork could scoop it up, activate epidermal body armor, and stomp his way to the end zone. Mistakes will be remembered when reminiscing about Super Bowl XLVI but a larger theme played an even greater role: a carefully conceived fate.
Matthew Timmons (a good friend of mine and co-editor at the Duty) recently compared the NFL to bowling or NASCAR. We were discussing our overall boredom with the sport despite it’s Madden-like quality, the Arena league type numbers that were being put up by Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and even Eli Manning (who ended the season with just under 5,000 passing yards). Officiating crews were spiking secondaries with saltpeter resulting in a wholly imbalanced progression, much like the unwavering left turns of a stock car race. The handicapped position of defenses, the increase in pass interference calls and the ever-escalating focus on quaterback protection, has devauled that position (QB) and rendered every other insignificant. An average quarterback like Alex Smith can take a moderately successful offense to the NFC Championship game. It is a fact that the team wouldn’t have made it as far without their Tommy Conlon-esque defense but that same one-hit knockout roster couldn’t contend with an equally average Giants offense. Conversely, the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints combined enough offensive yardage to construct a field turf highway to Neptune. Yet each team fell before a just-good-enough Giants defense.
Timmons’ comparison was accurate but not quite in the way he intended or I implied.
The real reason that the NFL is easily comparable to bowling or NASCAR is because the sport itself has lost its lust for exceptionalism, despite a many individual efforts to the contrary. The result of the 2011 season is the logical solution to an equation whose initial construction began sometime after January 25th, 1998 (the last Super Bowl to pit two equally dominant contenders: Elway’s Broncos and Favre’s Packers). I can’t claim knowledge of an inner-office conspiracy at the commissioner’s office or even provide indisputable statistics supporting my observations. But look at the Super Bowl matchups and their respective winners going forward from XXXII: Broncos/Falcons, Rams/Titans (a game whose ending was better than it deserved), Ravens/Giants, all lackluster matchups before the pattern for the next ten years locks in. A gutty collection of no-name B teamers beats the Greatest Show on Turf. True dominance in the sport would be seen only once more by the 2007 rendition of that same team but would ultimately lose to a xerox of it’s former self. That duplicate, though inferior to the prototype in many ways, is actually the NFL’s perfectly molded team model. The Giants are, and have been through their recent championship runs, just good enough to benefit from a number of policies and rule changes that level the playing field, evidently.
In Super Bowl XXXV, millions of people broke the world record for simultaneous nap time as the Giants played and eventually beat the Ravens (I think, I was drunk and asleep by half time). The Giants, in 2007, spoiled an entire generation’s chances at witnessing history and true greatness when their grotesque sufficiency prevented the best chance at a 19-0 season any of us will witness. Now, with this most recent victory, they have cemented their personification of the NFL’s parity creating policy by lifting the Lombardi after being wholly average. Some maintain that parity equals competition. I argue that it results in a diluted product and a plague of mediocrity. I can think of no greater support for my argument than the 2011 New York Giants, the latest rendition of a franchise that has served as mediocrity’s agent over the last decade.
The NFL is more popular than ever, enjoying exponential success both in ratings and ad revenue with each passing season. Over 111 million people watched the Super Bowl, breaking last year’s record by three hundred thousand. This time last year, advertisers were discussing a loss past twelve billion dollars should the strike prevent a full season. Passion for the sport can be measured using the GDP of small nations. So whatever the league’s status or quality, it is a product of our positive reinforcement. This 2011 Giants team, average in most every way, is exactly what you receive when you ask for equal footing and an opportunity for all to win a championship. Unfortunately, when you craft the game in such a way you lose that for which you play it: the crowning of a true champion.